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Mark Knopfler – Done With Bonaparte lyrics

We've paid in hell since Moscow burned
As cossacks tear us piece by piece
Our dead are strewn a hundred leagues
Though death would be a sweet release
And our grande armée is dressed in rags
A frozen starving beggar band
Like rats we steal each other's scraps
Fall to fighting hand to hand

Save my soul from evil, Lord
And heal this soldier's heart
I'll trust in thee to keep me, Lord
I'm done with Bonaparte

What dreams he made for us to dream
Spanish skies, Egyptian sands
The world was ours, we marched upon
Our little Corporal's command
And I lost an eye at Austerlitz
The sabre slash yet gives me pain
My one true love awaits me still
The flower of the Aquitaine

Save my soul from evil, Lord
And heal this soldier's heart
I'll trust in thee to keep me, Lord
I'm done with Bonaparte

I pray for her who prays for me
A safe return to my belle France
We prayed these wars would end all wars
In war we know is no romance
And I pray our child will never see
A little Corporal again
Point toward a foreign shore
Captivate the hearts of men

Save my soul from evil, Lord
And heal this soldier's heart
I'll trust in thee to keep me, Lord
I'm done with Bonaparte

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    'Done with Bonaparte' poignantly tells the story of the retreat of Napoleon's 'Grand Armee' following their ultimately unsuccessful invasion of Russia in 1812. Told from the personal perspective of a single soldier, the song captures the terrible human tragedy of a campaign that first advanced with as many as half a million French and allied soldiers. The devastated, exhausted force that left Russia numbered around 27000, with at least 38000 dead or missing - victims of guerilla warfare, poor logistics, and a scorched earth policy on the part of the Russians.
    The song movingly captures the suffering of the retreating soldier ("Death would be a sweet release") , the anarchy as the army begins to disintegrate ("Like rats we steal each others scraps, fall to fighting hand to hand").
    We hear of the soldiers' longing for home (my Belle France) and his wife or sweetheart (the flower of the Aquitaine) and his intense disillusionment with the leadership that brought him and all those he knew to this pass ('Done with Bonaparte'), and his earnest hope that no other would-be dictator such as Napoleon will dominate the world his child, or his descendants will live and grow in.
    Sadly his reference to Napoleon, the undeniably affectionate nickname of 'the little Corporal' immediately brings to mind another egotistical Corporal of short stature. This foreshadowing of the rise of Adolf Hitler reminds us the world is not done yet with total war, nor mass slaughter to satisfy one man's will.
    This remains one of Mark Knopfler's finest songs, understated and powerful, a reminder of his ability to span genres and cultivate ideas in his music. A classic.
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